By Brian McDonnell
WITH this Munster final settled well before referee Brian Gavin’s final whistle Tipperary opted to substitute goalkeeper Brendan Cummins and thereby allow him the honour of an ovation from the 36,000-strong crowd. It was a fitting gesture for the Ballybacon-Grange man who equalled Christy Ring’s record of turning out on 65 championship occasions for his county on Sunday.
“Yeah, it was nice. It was very touching to be honest,” admitted an obviously emotional Brendan Cummins.
“Every time, all 65 times that I got to wear that blue and gold jersey it was really, really important to me to try to do my best in it.
“To know what it stands for over the history of Tipperary hurling makes it very special to wear that jersey as many times as you can.”
Indeed, such was Cummins’ concentration on the match that he did not notice Portroe’s Darren Gleeson warming up or know that the management team had planned to make such a gesture.
“I didn’t even see Darren warming up,” Brendan Cummins told the Tipperary Star.
“I heard number one and I said ‘who’s that fella’. Then I thought ‘that’s me’. I didn’t realise anything like that was going to go on, but Darren deserved his run as well. It wasn’t just about getting me off the pitch for a round of applause or whatever.
“Darren Gleeson has been a huge help to me over the last three or four years since he has been in on the panel because he has been pushing me to the very limit. Not only do I get the privilege of wearing the jersey I also know that it is hard earned because I know the man behind me is only chomping at the bit and that helps.”
And, whatever about personal plaudits, Brendan Cummins was just delighted that Tipperary are now through to an All-Ireland semi-final.
“I don’t know if I played in 13 or 14 Munster finals, but thankfully now I have won four. Whatever about milestones like that the most important thing for Tipp hurling was that we jumped the fence today because the quarter-final looks like a tricky place to be now.
“We go straight to a semi-final now and the five-week break should help us as well to calm down the whole hype that goes on around winning a Munster final by as much as we did.”
Although eager to play down the nature of Tipperary’s wonderful performance Cummins did admit that the 21-point win would have to be ranked very highly.
“Well, look it has to be right up there, there’s no doubt about that,” Cummins said.
“But the more important performance is going to be getting back to the work rate that we pride ourselves on over the next five weeks because in 1993, I think it was, Tipperary beat a Clare team in a Munster final and then suddenly found ourselves in Croke Park in a semi-final being beaten by Galway. So, we don’t want to go down that road.
“Thankfully, now with Declan and Tommy involved, who were there in the past, they don’t need to say too much to us because our goal is to win an All-Ireland and that means keeping the feet on the ground.”
Brendan Cummins was also eager to highlight that the key to Lar Corbett’s excellence as a player was his appetite for work.
“The main thing about Larry is that he keeps working for the team. Larry is back in our half-back line with 15 minutes left trying to hook and block. He epitomises what we’re all about and while he has the flair he also has the work rate. That’s really what Tommy, Declan, Michael and Cian O’Neill have really drilled into us; that it’s all about work rate and then the scoreboard will look after itself.”
As a player the Waterford manager Davy Fitzgerald played 60 times for his native Clare and was left devastated by his side’s 21-point defeat: “it is very hard to take.
“We are all absolutely gutted. We are not as bad as that. If Tipp get two or three goals on you and smell blood then they will finish you. That is what they did today.”
Ironically enough Davy Fitzgerald admitted that Waterford’s pre-match plan involved limiting the amount of goal-scoring chances allowed to Tipperary: “the most important thing we tried to do today was not to leak goals. If Tipp get two or three goals on you and smell blood then they will finish you.”
The Waterford manager also hoped that his players could take some heart from how Tipperary recovered from last summer’s defeat to Cork.
“Tipp had a shocker last year. They were absolutely pulverised after playing Cork. It took them a while to find their legs and they found their legs. Who would have given them a chance after they played Cork? Let’s see what we are made of.”